Triclosan is an antibiotic that has long been added to many products. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, triclosan was added not just to antibacterial soaps, but also to cutting boards, pet products, deodorant, and even underwear. As people became aware of the potential harmful effects of triclosan, they began to ask that it be removed, and companies responded.
But there are still some toothpastes containing triclosan that are sold in the US.
Benefits of Triclosan
One of the main reasons why manufacturers have been removing triclosan from many products is that it doesn’t seem to have any real benefit. One of the last classes of products that routinely contains triclosan–antibacterial soap–was challenged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said manufacturers had to prove that the soaps were helpful. There is no good evidence showing that using antibacterial soap is effective at promoting health.
On the other hand, toothpastes do have some good scientific support. Triclosan-containing toothpastes were the subject of a recent Cochrane Review, which looked at 30 studies. The finding was that triclosan, with a supporting polymer, was effective at improving oral health, leading to a 22% reduction in plaque, a 22% reduction in gingivitis–mild gum disease–and a 48% reduction in bleeding gums. This significant impact was accompanied by a modest reduction in cavities–just 5%–and no evidence of effectiveness on periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease. So it’s not necessarily going to reduce your need for reconstructive dentistry, from tooth-colored fillings to dental implants.
Although these are notable gains, they come with some potential serious side effects.
Potential Harmful Effects of Triclosan
As with many of the chemicals we encounter on a daily basis, there is little good data about triclosan’s potential hazards. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers a serious waterway contaminant that has been linked to:
- Hormonal disruption
- Developmental and reproductive effects
- Chronic toxicity
Animal studies are the source for these concerns, but the FDA doesn’t always consider animal testing a reliable prediction of what happens in humans.
However, some have claimed that the FDA approval process didn’t look closely enough at triclosan toothpaste.
In addition to the effects cited by the EPA, some have raised other potential concerns. Triclosan in the system is associated with increased BMI. High levels of triclosan are associated with a 1.5 point increase in BMI. Others have noted that triclosan negatively impacts the function of muscles. This last test was done in a test tube, not in actual people.
Is Triclosan Toothpaste Worth It?
This is the hard question we have to ask and try to answer, and, unfortunately, we don’t have a lot to go on. Triclosan-containing toothpastes have been on the market for about 18 years, but our studies are only three years long. That’s a huge discrepancy.
In the end, whether this is a good choice for you probably depends on your oral health and major concerns, something that we can only evaluate in person.
To talk to a San Diego dentist about this or other oral health concerns, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment at Strober Dental.